Coronavirus: New UK-built ventilators to be available for NHS from next week, government announces

The NHS has around 8,000 ventilators but more are needed to cope with rising numbers of coronavirus cases

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 31 March 2020 18:17
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Thousands of new UK-built ventilators ready for NHS next week says Gove

New UK-built ventilators to treat coronavirus patients will be available for use in the NHS from next week, Michael Gove has announced.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, the cabinet office minister said the first of thousands of new machines will be rolled out on to the front line within days to cope with the spread of the virus.

There are around 8,000 ventilators deployed in the NHS currently but Mr Gove acknowledged that many more would be needed ahead of the expected peak of the outbreak in April.

The UK is also buying more ventilators from abroad “including from EU nations”, Mr Gove said, following a row over the government’s failure to join an EU procurement scheme to source the vital medical kit.

Mr Gove said: “Before the epidemic struck we had very little domestic manufacturer of ventilators.

“But now, thanks to the dedication of existing medical supply companies, and the ingenuity of our manufacturing base, we have existing models being produced in significantly greater numbers and new models coming on stream.”

A consortium of firms – including Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Dyson – is working to bolster NHS stock of life-saving ventilators, to cope with an influx of coronavirus patients.

Mr Gove said: “I can announce that this weekend the first of thousands of new ventilator devices will roll off the production line and will be delivered to the NHS next week.

“From there, they will be rapidly distributed to the front line.”

Some 10,000 new oxygen machines – known as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices – are also being produced to help patients struck down by the virus.

Mr Gove also revealed that the UK is conducting clinical trials on drugs, including antimalarials, which may be able to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on those affected.

It comes after the UK recorded 381 deaths on Monday from coronavirus – the highest number in a single day – taking the total number of deaths to 1789.

Meanwhile, the Treasury announced it will waive import taxes on ventilators and other vital medical equipment from outside the EU to speed up supply to frontline staff.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said NHS suppliers will no longer have to pay customs duty and import VAT on specified medical items, including coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing.

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